The Hummel Report

Investigative Reports That Get Results

A Rhode Island 501c3 Non-Profit

This Just In

Our quarterly update is a commitment to you - to provide new information and developments on some of our previous Hummel Report investigations. This update includes: the ongoing saga of a Woonsocket woman trying to get her neighbor’s junked cars cleaned up - and news of long-awaited improvements to the exterior of the Providence Amtrak station. And Jim Hummel has learned that the ugly Jersey barriers lining the signature IWay bridge could be gone by the end of the year.

SCRIPT:

Our quarterly update is a commitment to you - to provide new information and developments on previous investigations. We begin this week with the ongoing saga of a Woonsocket woman - who for decades has looked out her front door at dozens of junked cars.

Last fall we told you about Lorraine LeClerc’s decades-long struggle to get dozen of junked cars cleared from her neighbor - Al Gaffney’s - property, in some cases just feet from yard.

The case has gone from City Hall to Superior Court and back, with no end in sight.

LeClerc: ``And now we’re at a standstill again.’’

While Gaffney has cleared some of the cars, 21 remain by the city’s count. We took this video in February and LeClerc has continued to take pictures over the past several months. The remaining vehicles are registered and insured, which satisfies the state, but if they are inoperable that would violate a city ordinance. City Solicitor Mike Marcello is preparing to bring a case against Gaffney, but said he needs several months to see if the term `inoperable’ applies to Gaffney’s cars.

LeClerc has heard enough.

LeClerc: `` And they have to be operable. They’re not operable. They’ve been sitting there for years. They have to be street worthy. They can’t have flat tires. They can’t have half a vehicle. They have to start.’’

A zoning hearing is scheduled for July.

In 2011 we questioned why millions of taxpayers’ dollars were used to build what some called a `Bridge to Nowhere’ within the Quonset Business Park. Now a study says that bridge has, in fact, helped with the development to Quonset.

The bridge, which cost $4.2 million and was funded mostly by the federal government, connects one side of the park to another. But some business owners at the time told us drivers could access other roads to accomplish the same goal, so why build the bridge?

A report issued last fall says the bridge and resulting safety improvements, leveraged an estimated $64 million in private investment and 504 new jobs.

Of course Quonset has continued to be one of Rhode Island’s bright spots in terms of economic development, aided in part by the new 403 connector road leading into the park. And the federally-funded bridge.

One of our very first Hummel Reports - back in 2009 - focused on the deplorable conditions outside the Amtrak station in Providence. Now, millions of dollars and seven years later, much-needed improvements are almost complete.

The pictures tell the story: for years this is what greeted riders at the Amtrak station, often the first thing visitors using the train to Providence would see when they arrived in the city.

After years of arguing who would pay for a proposed improvements, the Rhode Island D.O.T, using more than $5 million in federal money, has largely completed an estimated $10 million facelift, on time and under budget. The improvements include reinforcing the roof of the underground parking garage, and building a new plaza where buses can drop and pick up passengers - along with landscaping and benches. Finishing touches should be completed later this spring.

Our story on a metals recycling company polluting the Providence River included a plea by environmental officials for the government to provide more resources to crack down on violators. And now it looks like help might be on the way.

Rhode Island Recycled Metals’ chronic - and blatant - violations of environmental laws pointed to a need for more bite behind the bark of agencies like The Department of Environmental Management, according to Save the Bay Executive Director Jonathan Stone.

It wasn’t until the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office stepped in and sued Rhode Island Recycled Metals that the company started to really pay attention - prompting Stone to urge the administration to give state agencies more resources.

In her budget Governor Raimondo has proposed:

The addition of two enforcement staff at DEM - including an attorney in the legal office and an inspector in the office of compliance and inspection.  That, Stone said, would be a start toward restoring the agency to the enforcement staffing levels it had a decade ago.

The budget still has to be passed the General Assembly.

It’s been nearly three years since the state put of Jersey Barriers to protect defective guardrails along each side of the Iway bridge. Now we’ve found out those guardrails should be fixed by the end of the year.

Since 2013 the ugly barriers have been a reminder of a defect in the decade-old state-of-the-art bridge. Inspectors found that the guardrails were not installed property and for safety reasons put up the Jersey barriers while the state and contractor, Cardi Corporation, have haggled about what needed to be done to fix them and who should pick up the cost.

The DOT tells The Hummel Report work should be completed - in four separate phases - by Nov. 1st and that the contractor is picking up the cost of the repairs.

Finally, we’re keeping a close eye on developments in a story we brought you just last month, about a Johnston Town Councilwoman and her triplets who go to Narragansett High School. Both towns have launched an investigation based on our story and we expect to have the outcome for you within the next several weeks.